Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The "Frontline" Report on International Health Care, "Sick Around the World," is Worth an Hour of Your Time

Last night the PBS program, "Frontline" gave us an hour long tour of the health care systems in Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Taiwan, and Switzerland and asked what can we Americans learn from them.

When I heard about the program, I was dubious that an hour long report covering five different systems could possibly be helpful. But this hour long tour de force accomplished a great deal and I came away impressed.

Did the report skirt a number of really important issues and fail to mention things that critics or supporters will be upset about? Yes.

But from my experiences in international health care I have to say it is a generally fair and balanced job. "Sick Around the World" is a constructive contribution to our national health care debate.

As the report pointed out, most of these systems rely heavily on the health care market--private insurers, private doctors, and private hospitals.

The program also offered a number of conclusions from their investigation of these national health care systems which, from my own experience, I cannot deny:
  • These nations have health care systems--often as much market oriented as government oriented. Market or government, the U.S doesn't have a health care system as much as a hodgepodge of things we have drifted into over the decades and that creates much of our problem.
  • That the quality of health care in each of these nations is generally as good as ours--it is a myth that the U.S. gets a lot more quality health care for the money we spend.
  • That these nations take advantage of market forces but at the same time all impose limits that so far we have been unwilling to impose.
  • That nations who successfully rely upon private insurance use only not-for-profit insurers and the insurers must accept everyone.
  • That everyone is mandated to have insurance and the poor and near poor receive adequate premium support.
  • That doctors and hospitals are required to accept one standard price structure--and their prices are far less than ours.
The program ended asking, "Can Americans accept ideas like that?"

I strongly recommend you spend an hour online watching, "Sick Around the World."

All of my posts on international health care
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